Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Japan Day 4 [transcribed from journal]

Another astoundingly full day.  Trained ~20 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto, which is home to many of Japan's most famous landmarks and national treasures.

First stop was Sanjusangen-do temple, one of many formally recognized "national treasures," as well as a world heritage site.  Temple is home to 1,000 nearly-identical statues of a Buddhist guardian goddess, carved by dozens of artists over a 15-year span, hundreds of years ago.  Centerpiece is a large statue of the same deity, flanked by many other figures from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.

Temple was also historical site of a famous annual archery contest: shoot arrows the length of the 110-meter temple, below an overhang, and see how many times you can hit a target in 24 hours.  All-time record-holder hit the target more than 8,000 times, shooting an average of 6 arrows a minute for a solid day.

Next stop was the Kyomizudera temple on top of a large hill.  Temple is a famous and popular tourist destination for Japanese and gaijin alike.  Includes a shrine dedicated to finding/keeping love that was especially popular with the students.

One surprisingly frequent sight in historic Kyoto is the splash of color from an ornate, traditional kimono.

Small clumps of kimono-clad women would periodically stroll by, in all other ways indistinguishable from the surrounding tourists.  A Japanese friend of Rushton's explained that the kimono companies are all based in Kyoto, where they rent out kimonos for the day.  Ladies wearing kimono receive discounts in all kinds of shops.  They also play a huge role in creating the tourist-delighting, historic atmosphere that the area wants.  And finally, they're basically walking billboards for the kimono companies.  Cool!

Lunch was at Rushton's favorite udon spot, right on the temple grounds.  We then wound our way through more temples and gardens -- Kyoto has temples like DC has monuments.

We made it back to the modern grid of busy city streets...

...and then embarked on an ill-fated, multi-mile walk to the International Manga Museum -- Mecca to most of the students, but closed on Wednesdays at it turns out.

Switched gears and went shopping in a long, covered, outdoor shopping street for a couple of hours.  Kids went in search of only-in-Japan Pokemon accessories while Rushton finally found a Mister Donut that stocked the coveted Fudge Chocolate Freeze.
Also found a few spare minutes to find and purchase my big souvenir: a woodcut print of the Kyomizudera temple where I'd stood earlier that day.

Also had time to mug for the camera:

We then went back to the Kyoto train station, a striking, ultra-modern building, and one of Rushton's favorites.  Dinner for Rushton and me was curry rice, apparently one of the most popular dishes with Japanese youth.  Tasty.  Not too spicy.  Served with an eggnog-like soup.

Also, some of our students are ninjas:
(Sign behind them apparently says "bento for sale."  They're some kind of bento ninjas.)

Finally, home and a welcome bed.  Will need new shoes after this trip, I think.